Search Story by The Numbers

The leader board has held steady. Google is still king. Yahoo remains a distant second, Microsoft a distant third. AOL and Ask sit at the margins at Nos. four and five, respectively.

Examining comScore’s monthly search engine rankings from January, there were no great surprises, no bombshells. comScore’s figures are the latest reminder of Google’s domination; looking back at the trends of the respective search players reveals just how ingrained that domination has become.

In January, Google conducted 58.4 percent of all searches, compared with Yahoo’s 22.9 percent and Microsoft’s 9.8 percent. Those portions represented a 0.1 percent gain for Google, a 0.7 percent drop for Yahoo and no change for Microsoft.

From month to month, it is rare for any of the top search engines to gain or lose much more than a percentage point in total market share. The market may creep at a tectonic pace, but there is no doubt about which way it is moving.

[cob:Related_Articles]In April 2006, the earliest month that comScore has data for search engine rankings, Google held 45 percent of the market. That month, Yahoo grabbed 29.5 percent of the market; Microsoft’s market share was 12.8 percent.

So in a little less than two years, Google’s share of the search market has grown from 45 percent to a commanding 58 percent. Yahoo’s share has fallen from almost 30 percent to 22 percent. That’s a net swing of 20.7 percentage points.

Plot the inverse trajectories of Google and Yahoo on a line graph, and this trend is even more striking. With the exception of June 2007, when an aberrant surge by Microsoft sent Google’s market share sliding by 1.6 percentage points, Google has picked up market share every month since April 2006, save for two separate periods when it dropped a scant 0.2 percentage points.

[cob:Special_Report]Asked how long Google has held the top spot, comScore analyst Andrew Lipsman said he wasn’t sure, but that it had been “several years.”

Microsoft has pitched its bid to acquire Yahoo as a necessary step to create a viable No. 2 in the search and advertising markets.

A greater share of the search market brings a greater share of the attendant advertising dollars, although Google monetizes its search queries with twice the effectiveness of Yahoo, according to Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney.

IDC has projected that a combined Microsoft and Yahoo enterprise would account for 22.7 percent of the online advertising market share, compared with Google’s 32.5 percent.

Microsoft and Yahoo both have much more display inventory to sell, but that does nothing to stem the tide of Google’s steady advance in search and placement, particularly as it continues to experiment with rich media.

In explaining the rationale for Microsoft’s bid to acquire Yahoo, Kevin Johnson, president of the company’s platforms and services division, declared that “the online advertising industry is an industry where scale matters.”

Scale, and momentum, judging by the numbers.

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